Statistical Literacy in Public Debate – Examples from the UK 2015 General Election

Phoebe Arnold

Full Fact is an independent, non-partisan fact-checking charity. A particular
focus is the analysis of factual claims in political debate in the UK; for example, fact checking claims and counterclaims made during Prime Minister’s questions. Facts do
not appear in a vacuum as they are often used as key elements in an effort to make a
coherent argument. This paper describes a number of case histories where facts are
disputed, drawn from our election work, to give an overview of the contemporary
state of statistical literacy among politicians and the media. Common pitfalls in
politicians’ claims are set out, along with descriptions of our attempts to close the
communication gap between different communities.